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What to Do About Lower-Division Varsity College Teams ... if Anything

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What to Do About Lower-Division Varsity College Teams ... if Anything

Adrian College has burst on the scene, but was that predictable?

Getting a college rugby program to a stage where it is operating under the egis of the Athletic Department is something of a Holy Grail for college rugby teams, but there are also pitfalls.

With various men's rugby programs springing up around the country, additional scrutiny has arisen on where these teams play. Many have opted to get their first couple of seasons under their belts in the small-college or D2 competitions. This has drawn ire from other teams that are full-on club teams. They feel like they are being squeezed out of championships by teams that have a significant advantage—higher travel budgets, paid coaches, paid fees and kit, and other support from their schools.

This is noticeable especially in this year's men's playoffs, in which three of the four teams remaining are varsity programs, and the club team left only got there with a late comeback try over another varsity program.

In previous years varsity programs have used lower divisions to get started and move up. In doing so they have gone deep into national playoffs and won national championships, which seems to imply they were ready much earlier. Lindenwood won a D2 national championship and finished second in D1AA before moving on toe D1A. Notre Dame College was 3rd in D2 before making the national D1AA final several times, winning the combined fall-spring title in 2016. Davenport won two D1AA titles before moving up to D1A. Queens University finished 3rd nationally in D2 and the next year won it all before moving up to D1.

(Not all of these teams are technically varsity, but they are administered by their athletic departments.)

But is it that simple that you ban varsity programs from D2 or Small-College? No one seems to be upset that Norwich, a varsity program, is in D2. Several small-college teams are varsity or close to it. It's also worth noting that not every varsity program takes. Lindenwood-Belleville and Bethel, for example, have gone by the wayside, mostly for non-rugby reasons. Other new varsity programs are doing well but not dominating (Belmont Abbey in D2, Nazareth in D1, McKendree in small). It's not cut-and-dry. And some programs, varsity, quasi-varsity, or something else, can still be small and have a limited recruiting base.

At the same time, many clubs do very well (there's all this talk about Siena in the small-college challenge cup beating teams by 100 or more ... Siena isn't varsity or quasi-varsity or elevated club are anything like that).

So what do you do?

Here's our take on it in the latest GRR video: